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National Farm Workers Day is celebrated annually on March 31 to pay tribute to the unsung heroes on a farm who are the hired workforce doing the tougher part of the job such as plowing fields, operator tractors, spreading fertilizers, and trimming hedges. The labor force on a farm plays a pivotal role in bringing crops to fruition. Employed on low wages, they work day and night, crouching on fields under the glaring sun in all kinds of climates. Without their relentless hard work and commitment, farmers wouldn’t be able to grow, maintain, and harvest crops on such a large scale. So, on this day, we thank and glorify all farmworkers for making it possible to bring fresh produce to our tables in the face of increasing risks and challenges.
History of National Farm Workers Day
Farm laborers had a horrible time on fields in the colonial era. Men and women were indentured servants captured by force or trickery with few rights and no promise of eventual freedom. By the 1600s, plantation owners, requiring more farmworkers, started enslaving African immigrants with crueler methods and no hope for liberty. As a result, when the American Revolution came, around 20% of the population in the 13 colonies were African American farm slaves.
The expansion of the nation curbed the culture of farm slavery and the international slave trade but it took another 55 years, the Civil War, and a World War to put an end to this involuntary servitude.
After the Civil War, California became the agricultural center to which farmworkers were imported from Asia. During the 1930s and World War II, the immigrant farmworkers shifted to Mexico. During the 1960s, the Mexican-American community organizer, farmworker, and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez cofounded the National Farm Workers Association, now called the United Farm Workers. The organization fights for the rights of migrant farmworkers and succeeded in its first mission with the historical 5-year Delano grape strike, eventually leading to long-overdue higher wages for grape pickers on grape farms in California.
National Farm Workers Day might be a single day paying homage to the unrelenting efforts of farmworkers but should be an annual reminder of the bitter fact that farm labor continues to be taken for granted.
National Farm Workers Day timeline
Congress places a ban on the international slave trade.
As the Mexican-American War comes to an end, tens of thousands of farmworkers arrive in the United States.
In the Reconstruction era, the U.S. government implements exclusive laws to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude
Cesar Chavez cofounds the National Farm Workers Association that redefines farm labor activism.
National Farm Workers Day FAQs
What is the role of farmworkers?
Farmworkers have indispensable roles in providing food for the nation. The agriculture industry would be crippled without farmworkers doing the planting, cultivating, harvesting, and packaging of the crops.
How many hours do farmworkers work?
They work more than 40 hours a week and are not paid for their overtime duties.
How much do farmworkers make?
They make around $14 per hour on average, which shows a substantial wage gap compared to other workers.
How To Observe National Farm Workers Day
Learn all about the farmworkers
On National Farm Workers Day, make it a goal to learn all about the struggles, challenges, and mistreatment of farmworkers on the farms in your area.
Spread the word on social media
There’s no tool as powerful as digital media. Use it to give a voice to the farmworkers who perform the most arduous jobs amongst all American workers, and yet remain disturbingly underpaid. Share news, updates, and their struggles with the hashtag #NationalFarmWorkersDay
Donate to the Farm Workers Association
The National Farm Workers Association seeks to empower and improve the lives of farmworkers. Play your part and donate to the association as a token of appreciation for their efforts.
5 Facts About Farm Workers That Will Blow Your Mind
They are paid in pennies
For every one pound of sweet potatoes picked, farmworkers are paid only one penny in North Carolina — they pick more than 9,000 pounds every day.
Farmworkers are often children
In North Carolina, children as young as six years old are employed in the agriculture industry.
Many of them drop out of school
The highest drop-out rate from high schools goes to the farmworker youth.
High rates of tuberculosis
The tuberculosis infection rate is much higher in farmworkers than in the general public.
More than 3 million agricultural jobs each year
The shortage of farmworkers is real, with more than 550,000 U.S. farmers hiring workers to fill more than 3 million farming jobs — these jobs are filled by only 2.5 million farmworkers of the U.S population each year.
Why National Farm Workers Day is Important
They live in poverty
Farmworkers are feeding the entire country with enough food to export to other places. Ironically, at the end of the month, they have a limited supply of food left for themselves because they make the lowest annual family income in the United States.
They are essential to us
If it weren’t for the men and women choosing this field, we don’t know what we would be eating right now. Extracting the labor input in agricultural production can cause it to cripple and, therefore, farmworkers are critical to the entire industry.
They contribute immensely to the U.S. economy
On and off the farm, farmworkers without immigration status are contributing more than $9 billion annually to the fruit and vegetable industry alone.
National Farm Workers Day dates